JAKARTA (Mar 20) – New strategies are needed to deal with youth issues in a multi-sectoral way in order to find sustainable solutions to the problems brought about by unemployment, according to participants at a video conference today co-organized by the ASEAN Secretariat and the World Bank Institute in Washington D.C.

The video conference on Global Dialogue on Social Development, which brought together government representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Viet Nam, the Philippines in their respective capitals, as well as the World Bank and the International Labour Organization (ILO), focused on the topic of Youth Unemployment in Post Economic Crisis.

It provided a forum of discussion by four Southeast Asian countries on the lessons learned following the regional economic crisis of the late 1990s, which adversely impacted on the rate of unemployment and its impact on youths.

World Bank adviser, Zafiris Tzannatos, in a recorded speech from Washington D.C. said the challenge for governments is to identify sustainable policies and programmes which can address youth issues effectively and permanently.

“The prospects of young people are in serious jeopardy even in the most advanced economies,” said Mr. Tzannatos.

“Youth unemployment and the difficulty to transition from school to work is already a persistent and significant problem in Europe and in all industrialized countries, so something is wrong – the education system fails to retain its students and many drop out of school prematurely for reasons of poverty and lack of resources or because the school system could not impart on them sufficient competence to be promoted to the next grade or to assure them by staying longer in school they will acquire knowledge relevant to what the labour market needs, ” Mr. Tzannatos added.

He noted that in a fast-developing economy, educational reform may lag behind emerging needs for certain types of workers in the economy and students may not be able to acquire the right skills to be employable, thereby influencing the families’ motivation to keep their youngsters in school.

Mr. Tzannatos said an integrated strategy at the national level is needed, with cooperation between the national education and training systems, and between rural and urban authorities and civil society. The World Bank adviser said it is also important that national authorities and international donors collaborate closely on programmes and activities to address youth unemployment.

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Country Director for Indonesia Mr. Alan Boulton said the youths in Indonesia face social and economic problems including continuing high levels of unemployment and underemployment.

“Over the last 10 years, unemployment rates in Indonesia have increased more notably among females and tertiary graduates,” said Mr. Boulton. “Underemployment is also high, particularly among young people who have limited schooling.”

Mr. Boulton said in the year 2001, there were six million unemployed Indonesian youths aged between 15 and 29, representing about three-quarters of the total unemployed population.

He said the Government of the Netherlands is providing funds worth US$218,000 to Indonesia this year to support the establishment of the Indonesia Youth Employment Network that focuses on job creation and skills development and youth entrepreneurship. But Mr. Boulton stressed that while government leadership is critical, governments cannot do the job alone.

“There is a need for networks and partnerships among governments, employers’ organizations, trade unions, youth organizations and other civil society groups to pool efforts and resources in order to address the challenge of youth employment in Indonesia,” said Mr. Boulton.

Mr. Boulton pointed out the need to develop vocational training policy and practical guidelines, study future scenarios and projections of youth unemployment and devise strategies for integrated education-to-work programmes as well as youth entrepreneurship programmes.

Indonesia’ Director-General of the Department of National Education, Dr. Fasli Jalal, said designing and implementing accountable training programmes for youths by incorporating supporting sectors and institutions into development plans are important.

“We need to have facilities and infrastructure support for the effective implementation of multi-sectoral development programmes to promote youth creativity and talent,” said Dr. Fasli.

Vietnam’s Secretary of International Affairs of the National Committee on Youth of Viet Nam, Doan Van Thai said the government aims to double the number of trained workers to 30 per cent of its work force by 2005, and create eight million jobs through economic development. He said one way is to export labour by filling 30,000 jobs overseas.

Malaysia’s Director-General of the Ministry of Youth and Sport, Dato’ Raja Ruslan Raja Saman, said over dependence on the government should be reduced and entrepreneurship encouraged.

“Youths should endeavour to be involved in the information technology sector, which is  growing in potential and scope, and move away from traditional businesses,” said Dato’ Raja.

The Chairman of the National Youth Commission of the Philippines, Paolo Aquino, said greater cooperation in trade and industrial development and resource generation will help promote entrepreneurship.

“The government must adopt effective economic policies that reduce youth migration pressures,” said Mr. Aquino.

“It must invest in human capital and improve the quality, relevance and accessibility to education. There is a need to link the education system with the labour market through the establishment of labour market information to match supply and demand,” he added.

Mr. Aquino said rural development must also be intensified by increasing opportunities for education, employment and other social services.

ASEAN Secretariat’s Assistant Director for Social Development, Cho Kah Sin, said there are opportunities to strengthen regional cooperation to address youth unemployment.

“We are keen to look at opportunities to link with national, regional and international initiatives including training programmes conducted by the ILO and the World Bank,” said Mr. Cho.

“We should also continue our dialogue today through the ASEAN-World Bank interactive website on social development (www.worldbank.org/gdln/asean.htm) and carry on the momentum of what we have discussed in sharing lessons learned to promote the employability of youths in the region, besides finding creative ways of ensuring that youth employment concerns are addressed in the national development agendas of ASEAN Member Countries,” he added.

“The successful transition of youths from school to work will not only contribute to economic development but also help reduce the incidence of social problems,” said Mr. Cho.